Washington D.C. – A summer-long commuting crisis for tens of thousands of federal employees in the Washington region has prompted the administration to encourage more telework and alternative work schedules, a welcome change from recent efforts to curtail the programs.
The Office of Personnel Management has asked agencies to expand workplace flexibilities during the 15-week closure of six Metro stations in northern Virginia.
The National Treasury Employees Union is now urging agencies to go further and proactively identify the employees affected by the disruption and offer them new or expanded telework schedules or temporary modifications to their work schedules.
“It’s ironic that the same administration trying to gut telework in labor contracts is now relying on it to make sure their Washington-area workforce remains productive and effective this summer,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “Telework and alternative work schedules are not only smart, progressive programs that give employees more flexibility, they are proven to reduce traffic congestion and allow employees to focus more on work and less on their commute.”
NTEU on Thursday sent letters to leaders at multiple federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services; Internal Revenue Service; Environmental Protection Agency; Customs and Border Protection; Bureau of the Fiscal Service; and Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services to encourage more flexibility for their employees.
At HHS, management has recently taken steps to restrict teleworking to one day a week, forcing employees to drive to work or take the Metro, at the same time OPM is encouraging agencies to expand it. At EPA, employees affected by the Metro closures strongly oppose being forced into their cars where they will contribute to traffic jams and poor air quality.
“This summer’s disruption to the public transit system in Washington is an ideal time for federal agencies to embrace the benefits of telework and alternative work schedules, which will prove, once again, such programs are good for employees, good for agencies and good for taxpayers,” Reardon said.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.